Canary Islands to Cape Verdes
On departure from Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote on Monday 7th conditions were light with a gentle 10 knot northerly breeze pushing Fathom towards the Cape Verde islands, 886 nautical miles to the south. Within a couple of hours a small tuna took the lure which made for a very nice dinner that evening. Once Fuerteventura had been passed the wind increased to 15-18knots but the 2 to 3m swell made life a little uncomfortable onboard as the boat began an excellent demonstration of rocking and rolling.
By lunchtime on the second day the wind was hovering around 20knots allowing good boat speed and encouraging progress. 124nm from noon to noon. Before dark I decided to gybe and head away from the African coast as our course would have put us very close to the shipping lanes which run north to south. During the night the paddle of the self steering gear popped up out of the water on two occasions resulting in Fathom heading off course and a trip on deck required to reseat it. Hanging over the stern trying to position the paddle with the boat hook in a decent swell is not my idea of fun! Very frustrating when I was all settled down below and trying to sleep. I have put this problem down to a washer becoming unseated slightly in its housing and I’ll investigate further when in port. The air temperature suprisingly cool and I had been wearing a jumper on deck and sleeping under a blanket.
The batteries were starting to get low during Wednesday as the solar panel couldn’t keep up so I deployed the towed generator. This is a 60cm metal propeller and shaft attached to 30m of rope which is towed behind the boat and spins a generator mounted on the pushpit . It puts in about 5amps of juice at 5knots of boat speed and is very effective despite the disadvantage of slowing the boat slightly. I dare not deploy the fishing line at the same time in case it all ends in a massive tangle! Daily run of 126nm so again great progress. Excellent nights sleep setting the alarm at 1.5 hour intervals to wake me so I could check the compass and that we were still on course without leaving the bunk. Complete faith being put in the AIS and radar alarms to warn me of any collision risk with other vessels.
Thursday morning was pleasant and I took the oportunity to practise some celestial navigation and went on deck at local noon to take a sun sight with the sextant subsequently calculating our latitude within 3 miles of the GPS reading. Just about respectable but the noon site is the easy bit! Throughout the afternoon the wind increased and by evening was hovering around 25 to 27knots. The swell was also building and I estimated the waves were up to about 4m by sunset making life uncomfortable onboard and performing any task down below increasing difficult as the boat rolled up to 30 degrees one way to 30 degrees the other. Daily run from noon to noon 134nm the best ever for Fathom and I beating the previous highest by one whole mile! Thursday night I was on deck at 02.30 and again at 04.30 firstly to drop the mainsail and then later to completely furl the Yankee and hoist the staysail as the wind hit 30 knots with big seas and I wanted to make life as easy for the self steering (and me) as possible.
Sailed through the whole of Friday with just the staysail up as the wind was still at 30 knots. In moments like these I often ask myself why on earth I am doing this! I gave some thought to our destination and decided to head for Mindelo instead of Sal. I was always going to end up at Mindelo before crossing the pond but as it is the best place for provisioning and best anchorage in the Cape Verde decided to head straight there and relax for a week or so rather than moving from island to island beforehand. Despite the conditions I got a good night sleep.
Wind and swell started to reduce during Saturday and I hoisted the mainsail again during the morning. Most the day times were spent either listening to podcasts or reading books on the Kindle. I never used to be a fan of the Kindle preferring a proper book but it comes into its own on a boat when space is limited and it can hold hundreds of titles. Daily run of 114nm.
During Saturday the towed generator was hauled in and the fishing line deployed alas no fish were interested. Noticeably warmer and for the first time lots of flying fish darting about as they try and avoid capture from their enemies in the deep. Daily run of 122nm.
On Sunday I realised at our current rate of progress it would not be possible to arrive in Mindelo during daylight hours on Monday and I never like to arrive in a new port during darkness. Therefore decided to slow down with the aim of arriving on Tuesday morning.
Wind dropped to 10 knots on Monday morning with a much calmer sea. Decided we better not slow down too much more otherwise we wont arrive until Wednesday! Full sails up and full speed ahead. Monday night marked the longest time I had been at sea at one stretch on my own and also the closest the moon had been to the earth since 1948. Sailing under this super moon was quite an experience. It was so bright that I could easily have read a book without a light at 3am in the cockpit.
On the approach to Mindelo on Tuesday morning I was met by an excitable pod of dolphins. After spending 8 days talking to myself I took the opportunity to sit at the bow for 20 minutes and have a natter with them as they darted in the wake and dived under the bow. It really felt like they were responding to my voice and whistles or maybe it was just I had spent too long on my own and I was just imagining that. In any case it was a special moment and one of the highlights of the trip so far. An epic jump from one dolphin after I had encouragingly asked for an improvement on its last effort was the icing on the cake (see video).
The anchor went down at 14.20 local time on Tuesday and a cold beer was cracked open almost immediately! 950 nautical miles from Lanzarote in 8 days which I think was respectable and it was nice to see some familiar faces and boats in the anchorage. Watch the videos below (sound needed). Apologies for the messy cockpit! More on the Cape Verdes to come in the next post.